National numbers, May 22

After appearing to peak in mid-April, COVID-19 case rates in New York City began going up again as BA.2.12.1 took over. Chart from NYC Health.

In the past week (May 14 through 20), the U.S. reported about 710,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 101,000 new cases each day
  • 216 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 19% more new cases than last week (May 7-13)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 23,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 3,300 new admissions each day
  • 6.9 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 24% more new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 2,000 new COVID-19 deaths (0.6 for every 100,000 people)
  • 98% of new cases are Omicron BA.2-caused; 48% BA.2.12.1-caused (as of May 14)
  • An average of 140,000 vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

The Omicron BA.2 surge continues in the U.S., with a 19% increase in officially-reported COVID-19 cases in the past week to over 100,000 new cases a day. Of course, the official case numbers severely underestimate true infections, as PCR testing sites close and more people use rapid tests; actual case counts may be five or more times higher.

New hospital admissions are also increasing: about 23,000 COVID-19 patients were admitted for care nationwide last week, up from 11,000 one month ago. While millions of Americans have some protection against severe disease from vaccination and/or prior Omicron infections, many are still susceptible. Hospitals are beginning to fill up again in almost every state, and as Ed Yong points out, the numbers don’t capture continued burnout among healthcare workers.

BA.2.12.1, the most transmissible version of Omicron BA.2 now spreading in the U.S., accounted for almost half of new cases in the week ending May 14, according to CDC estimates. Northeast states remain hotspots: BA.2.12.1 caused about three in four new cases in New York and New Jersey last week.

One thing I’ve been wondering, in recent weeks, is when we might see cases peak in the Northeast. In New York City, where I live, case trends seemed to turn downward in mid-April; but then after about a week, the numbers went up again — perhaps a consequence of BA.2.12.1 taking over from BA.2.

COVID-19 trends from wastewater surveillance for the Northeast look similar to the case trends in NYC: a slow increase through March and April, followed by a potential plateau or further increases in May.

And other regions are catching up, according to Biobot’s tracker: states in the Midwest and South continue to see their coronavirus levels increase as the Northeast stagnates. Official case data from the latest Community Profile Report suggest that states such as Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Kansas, and Kentucky reported the sharpest increases over the last week.

One piece of good news: new COVID-19 vaccinations rose slightly over the last week, going above 100,000 new shots administered daily for the first time in several months. Second booster shots in older adults and those with severe medical conditions are likely driving this increase, though, rather than shots for the previously unvaccinated.

As local leaders like NYC mayor Eric Adams refuse to institute new mask mandates and the country overall seems apathetic to this COVID-19 surge, it’s unclear how long we’ll be dealing with these Omciron subvariants — or how much we’ll invite the virus to keep mutating.

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